My interest in epilepsy began in grade school when I saw a girl sitting a couple of benches ahead of me having a grand mal seizure. When Net Galley offered the advance reading copy of Gotham Girl Interrupted with the promise of both brash truths and laugh-out-loud moments about the disease and culture, I asked for a copy.
Alisa Kennedy Jones writes a memoir of her experience of being diagnosed at age forty with epilepsy, calling the disease an overabundance of electricity in the brain. She lays out important things to know before beginning her story. There are more than forty forms of the disease, it affects more than sixty-five million people in the world, and it can strike at any age.
Central to her narrative is a childhood story about touching an electric fence. She will use that metaphor throughout to help the reader understand how the disease behaves. I found her description of what happens in a seizure to be the clearest I have ever read or heard and was particularly surprised to know that immediately prior to the seizure is an aura with a pleasant feel.
Humorous personal touches make the book interesting. When people made insensitive remarks to her, she got revenge by sending a donation in their name to the Epilepsy Foundation. Or she might say she got a letter from her brain yesterday, “The penmanship was atrocious. She must have been drinking.”
To say I enjoyed the book seems strange, but I was never without a feeling of satisfaction either that I was learning how to empathize rather than sympathize with someone who had the disease or actually laughing with the author as she applied her sense of humor that must have eased her difficulties.
I recommend the book for anyone who wants to understand the peculiarities of epilepsy and for anyone who likes a true story of someone who faces challenge with a sense of humor.